Apple unveils iPhone OS upgrade

Multitasking, enterprise capabilities, and a new ad platform are featured in iPhone OS 4.0

Apple, with its forthcomomg iPhone OS 4.0, has added more capabilities for enterprises and features such as multitasking, but there will be no change in the company's rejection of Java and Adobe Flash for the platform.

In a rollout of the OS Thursday at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., company CEO Steve Jobs heralded the release of a developer preview of iPhone OS 4.0 available Apple's developer Web page. Users will be able to get the OS this summer.

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Built for the iPhone, iPod Touch, and newly released iPad devices, Apple highlighted seven "tentpole" features. These include iTunes-less corporate app distribution, additional enterprise security, multitasking, folders, an enhanced email client, iBook capabilities, games, and the iAd advertising platform.

"iPhone OS 4 delivers over 1,500 new APIs for developers, a lot stuff that developers have been asking for," Jobs said. He called version 4.0 "the next generation of the most advanced mobile operating system in the world."

Emphasizing the developer bent of Tuesday's unveiling, Jobs said that Apple has sold more than 50 million iPhones and that total iPhone and iPod Touch sales have reached 85 million. "If you're a software developer, that is a plum market to go after," said Jobs.

On the enterprise side, iPhone OS 4.0 offers improved data protection with email encryption. Developers will be able to access APIs for encryption. Mobile device management in the OS enables solutions from companies like Sybase to be used for deploying large numbers of phones.

Wireless application distribution in version 4 enables user companies to distribute applications wirelessly to iPhone units from their own server. Also featured is support for multiple Exchange mail accounts on a single phone and support of SSL VPN capabilities.

"The iPhone has made huge inroads in enterprises," Jobs said. "Already, more than 80 percent of Fortune 500 companies are using iPhones."

But anyone holding out hope for Jobs to soften up on Apple's policy of not allowing Java or the Flash plug-in on iPhone OS had hopes dashed. Asked if Apple's stance in this regard would change with iPhone OS 4, Jobs responded with a simple "no."  Jobs has cited an emphasis on the budding HTML5 specification as a substitute for the otherwise-ubiquitous Flash; Jobs also has been dismissive of Java on iPhone devices.

[ InfoWorld's Galen Gruman says that the iPad proves Apple is out to kill Flash. ]

Jobs touted HTML5 during a demonstration Thursday of a newfangled ad for the movie, "Toy Story," which was intended to show new interactive iAd advertising capabilities of iPhone OS 4. "All this stuff is done in HTML5, by the way," Jobs said.

Multitasking made the cut in version 4. "We've been using it a lot, and it really changes the way you use the iPhone," Jobs said. Apple says it has has configured its multitasking so that it can be implemented without significantly draining batter life. Jobs showed an iPhone being used to view a Web site and then switch back to mail.

Multitasking was given a thumbs-up by a developer in the audience. "I thought the multitasking was definitely a necessary and positive step forward," said developer Luca Rajabi, project manager with First American Information Solutions Group. Rajabi had his iPad on hand for the event.

Enhanced email functions in iPhone OS 4.0 include a unified inbox for maintaining multiple email accounts, such as Yahoo and Exchange. Also featured are fast inbox switching, thread messages, and opening of attachments with applications.

Folders in version 4 enable users to find different items stored on the device. Another eye-opening capability, iAd, enables deployment of interactive ads to run within applications. Apple will host the ads and promises developers will get 60 percent of revenues from the program.

Rajabi also lauded iAd. "It seems quite robust, and I can see an entire ecosystem being developed around that platform," he said.

Version 4 offers an iBook reader as well and a developer preview of a game center.

The timeline for iPhone OS 4 has it available for iPhone 3G S and third-generation iPod Touch units this summer with all features supported. Users also can run the OS on iPhone 3G and second-generation iPod Touch, but some capabilities, such as multitasking, will not be supported. "The hardware just can't do it," Jobs said.

IPhone OS 4 ships for the iPad this fall.

Jobs  took time to tout the progress of iPad shipments. The notepad-based device began shipping this past Saturday. "So far, people seem to be loving it," Jobs said. On the first day of shipments, 300,000 iPads were sold, he said.

"I wanted to give you an update -- as of today, we have sold about 450,000," said Jobs. iPad users have downloaded more than 3.5 million applications, he said. There are more than 3,500 iPad applications the App Store.

Jobs said he anticipates that when people look back on the launch of the iPad in a number of years, they will remember it as "a major event in the history of personal computational devices."

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